An invite from Justine of Kaskwhisky fame and the impending Fife Whisky Festival, took me across the Forth bridge into the darkest depths of Edinburgh, or Leith as it’s known. The destination was a new bar restaurant called Rib-Aye where Dave – the brand ambassador for That Boutique-y Whisky Company – was hosting a small tasting prior to attending the National Whisky Festival the following day. The location was apt, as if you don’t know Leith, it was home to the spirit merchants and blenders during its heyday as a port. The casks and their skills may have long since departed the waterfront, but the buildings remain, as does their legacy.
Entering Rib-Aye, immediately I was faced with Justine and Dave just finishing setting up the table for our select group. The bar beckoned with the rarity of a beer to consume and discussion around the merits of the recently launched Leith Gin. Soon, our numbers swelled and before kicking off the tasting there was an opportunity meet up with some of Justine’s Kaskwhisky regulars that comprised different areas of Scotland and beyond. A refreshing aspect was the wide demographic featuring mostly women from all walks of life and the passion and interest for whisky, including a Glendullan fan.
Clearly this wasn’t a usual realm for a whisky tasting and refreshingly so. However, Justine did feel the need to sit alongside the Whisky Rover during the event to ensure any geek levels were kept under control. No need. Instead we handed over to Dave who had selected 6 whiskies from the Boutique-y Whisky Company, but these were to be tasted blind. Dave had removed their distinctive cartoonish labels from the 50cl bottles and instead designed a specific label for our tasting group. This was the first of several nice touches that were to materialise and the lack of a typical brand ambassador approach was refreshing. Things generally were more relaxed, organic and the whisky did the talking along with Justine who yaps too much anyway. I especially liked the handout cards that highlighted the brand approach in a subtle way, but also provided the necessary information if you wanted to learn more and purchase a bottle.
Our Rib-Aye burgers were destined to arrive after the tasting (very tasty and recommended), so we settled down around the table and prepared for a journey into the unknown.
My thanks to Dave for letting me take samples home to sit down with again in the comfort of my own whisky den. I did consider keeping the whisky details until the end of this piece, but instead will go with tradition and reveal each as we go along. These are tasted in the specific order Dave had selected.
Strathclyde 30 year old Batch 1 Review
Bottled at 53.1% volume, an edition of 228 bottles with a price of £108.95 or the 70cl equivalent of £152.53.
Colour: a dull lemon skin
On the nose: a rich vanilla but also a buttery pastry dough moving into tablet and some char from the cask. A touch of melon, bananas and coconut flakes followed by a dash of lemon.
In the mouth: very creamy initially with banana chips and more vanilla. Some plasticine then freshly baked shortbread with a light caramel and a touch of ash on the finish.
Immediately recognisable as a grain to the experienced, this one went down well with everyone. A palate refresher, not too demanding or with an enduring finish; it is a limited experience but nevertheless a pleasant grain. A little expensive overall, but this Batch 1 has sold out which just goes to show you. I thought it was perhaps the most expensive of the tasting, out of synch with what it delivered. Approachable yes, aged of course, but not the level of detail I’d want from a grain.
Blended Whisky #3 23 year old Batch 1 Review
Bottled at 48.2% volume, this is an edition of 463 bottles with a suggested price of £79.95 or the 70cl equivalent of £111.93.
Colour: apple cider
On the nose: a very fresh arrival with apples, caramel and a touch of shoe polish. Someone suggested Fisherman’s Friends and I’m pick up fennel and the sweetness of fudge. A malty emphasis with a hint of rusks, milk chocolate, a slight waxiness and a faded orange.
In the mouth: a little more rugged on the palate which I’m delighted with. A rich toffee note, a runny honey, digestive biscuits and more of the milk chocolate and a waft of smoke towards the end before a creamy vanilla finish that just lingers.
Speaking with Justine when nosing this one, we both picked it out as a blend, as did Shilton across from us. Just that bit of grain poking through around the fringes was enough of a giveaway. Roughly, this is a high malt blend likely around 50/50 which is way in excess of many other blends you see today. In some respect, it took me back to the Murray McDavid blending session our elite Tormore4 outfit did as part of the Speyside festival. Not everyone enjoyed this one at the table but I was quite satisfied with it. As for the price, it is a 23-year-old and a high malt blend so it’s probably a little more than I’d want to pay, but not too far off the mark.
Single Malt Irish Whiskey #2 Batch 1 14 year old Review
Bottled at 48.6% volume, the distillery here is unnamed but in reality, will either be Bushmills or Cooley. An edition of 357 bottles with a retail price of £66.95, or 70cl equivalent of £93.73. This one is pretty scarce nowadays having sold out in most retailers.
Colour: a worn brass rubbing
On the nose: a health level of caramel but there’s plenty of spicing here and a spent matchstick quality. Poached pears beneath this exterior along with a chestnut mushroom quality – so an earthiness – with a touch of smoke and mashed oranges.
In the mouth: a delightful toffee crisp wrapped in chocolate and a grating of nutmeg. A stream of dirty vanilla, wood chips, fudge and some charcoal towards the end.
Not hugely layered on the palate but the characteristics are delivered so expertly that it’s a delightful whiskey. Price wise with 50cl you have to always consider the experience and I think this one delivers above and beyond. Finally, the Irish are getting their house in order.
Millstone 6 year old
Bottled at 48.9% volume this comes from the Dutch Zuidam distillery and is a release of 637 bottles. Price for 50cl is £54.95 which scaled up to 70cl results in £76.93.
Colour: a light tan
On the nose: I still feel this is very botanical initially with lavender and fennel before moving into toffee cup territory and coffee beans. There’s also a Bakewell tart presence with marzipan as well. Certainly benefits from being left in the glass to relax and open up.
In the mouth: on the palate it’s light and refreshing with a creamy toffee finish. It’s unusual with plenty spices providing the main body before a touch of treacle and coffee comes out to play.
It’s perfectly pleasant but not the best Zuidam I’ve experienced but this Dutch distillery is consistently producing good stuff and this continues the trend.
Miltonduff 8 year old Batch 2
Bottled at 45.5% volume this is a release of 254 bottles retailing for £38.95, or £54.53 for a traditional 70cl bottling.
Colour: stewed apples
On the nose: red apples, a touch of alcohol which is surprising at this strength level and sweet cinnamon. Buttery with a dough-like quality, chocolate flakes and a caramel flapjack
In the mouth: a gentle array of toasted nuts, a vanilla toffee and a freshly baked sponge with bananas and more milk chocolate. A touch of ginger, peppery and cloves take us into the finish.
A lot of character here for just 8 years in a cask and a very delightful Miltonduff, which is well priced whatever the size of bottle. Recommended for a gentle and relaxing dram, which went down well with the group.
Williamson 6 year old Batch 1
Bottled at 50.2% strength, this is of course named in honour of the former Laphroaig owner, Bessie Williamson, and is an edition of 595 bottles. The retail price is £51.95 which when up-scaled becomes £72.73.
Colour: a dark caramel
On the nose: a sweet salty peat with candy floss dominates this dram but there’s a twist of lemon, brine and a touch of menthol present. Liquorice, hickory chips, cardamom and a dirty vanilla all follow.
In the mouth: more of the salt and earthy peat but the sugary sweetness still shines through with a layer of fruit underneath and some of that classy TPC and smoked cheese.
Not a hugely layered Laphroaig by any means but for just 6-years-old it offers plenty of classic flavours that put it above several bottlings within the official range we see today. A Tyson dram with a knockout arrival.
An interesting array of whiskies showcasing different styles of countries and the wide range that Boutique-y now carries. Generally, across the group everyone had their own individual favourites and were kindly left to explore these further. I’m sure a few online purchases will be made thereafter and I’ve certainly noted a couple to track down in due course including the Irish and that Williamson. My thanks to Justine and Dave for putting on a thoroughly enjoyable evening of whisky and company in Leith.